New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday said he aimed to boost strategic and economic ties besides exploring new avenues for cooperation and addressing a long running border dispute as he headed to Russia and China on one of his last major visits abroad ahead of national elections due in 2014.
Singh’s 20-22 October visit to Russia is mainly for the annual summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On the second leg of his visit, Singh will arrive in Beijing on 22 October for talks with the Chinese leadership. This will be Singh’s third major interaction with China’s new leadership that took over in March this year as part of the once in a decade leadership change.
Singh met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) meeting in Durban in March this year while Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited New Delhi in May. Singh’s visit to Beijing is also significant that this is the first time since 1954 that India and China have exchanged visits at the prime ministerial level in the same calendar year.
In his departure statement, Singh described the annual summit with Russia as “an important feature of our special and privileged strategic partnership.”
“The scope of our relationship with Russia is unique, encompassing strong and growing cooperation in areas such as defence, nuclear energy, science and technology, hydrocarbons, trade and investment, and people-to-people exchanges,” Singh said adding he would use the visit to “strengthen our partnership in every possible way.”
Noting that India and Russia have always had a convergence of views on global and regional issues, Singh said he would discuss the conflict and turbulence in West Asia as also closer to India, particularly in Afghanistan.”
On his visit to Beijing, Singh said that during his two terms as prime minister spanning nine years he had worked with the Chinese leadership to “establish a strategic and cooperative partnership and put in place comprehensive mechanisms for cooperation and dialogue and to address bilateral issues between our two countries.”
“Together, we have reached important consensus on maintaining peace and tranquillity on the border and made preliminary progress towards settlement of the India-China boundary question,” Singh said in a reference to the festering frontier problem that has bedevilled ties for more than half a century.
“During my visit, I will discuss with my Chinese interlocutors ways and means to consolidate our common strategic interests....We hope to take forward our engagement in many of these areas during my visit,” Singh said adding that he would be discussing “areas of concern” with China.